“You Have To Have An Emotion In Anything You Do” Homage to Michael Apted.

We honor the recent passing of the Master of British Cinema by recollecting the podcast interview recorded exactly one year ago.

Photo Courtesy of David Magdael & Associates.
Michale Apted with Daniela Pavan & Tommaso Cartia, Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, at the BBC Studio Location in Manhattan.

The iconic filmmaker of Caol Miner’s Daughter and James Bond – The World is not Enough, has sadly passed away this January 7th, 2021, in LA at the age of 79. In January 2020, our Artistic Directors Daniela Pavan and Tommaso Cartia, had the privilege to meet and interview the director on the occasion of the release of 63 Up, the ninth installment from the Up Series, Michael Apted’s epic documentary saga exploring all of the different layers of the British class system. A 63 years work of devotion and of unconditional love for his country, an “emotional bed”, like Apted likes to address his narratives, to lie and reflect on our own existential paths.

Listening to his words was more than just having the possibility to get a closer look into the work of a master. But to collect a life’s testimony about the mission of an artist and the waving of history. Enjoy it here below. Ready, set, imagine…









The Courage to Be a Woman at the 2nd Edition of the Women’s Leadership International Summit.

An interview with French Human Rights Artist and Academic Guila-Clara Kessous – one of the UNESCO’s Artists for Peace – hosting the 2nd Edition of the International Women’s Leadership. Protagonists of the panel are personalities of the caliber of Actress Eva Longoria; Authors Eve Ensler; Metin Arditi; and David Foenkinos, among others.

This article was first published in French on Luxe Infinity Lifestyle Magazine.

Guila-Clara Kessous is Ambassador for Peace, UNESCO Artist for Peace, and Rising Talent 2020 of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. She will host prestigious speakers at the second edition of the International Women’s Leadership Summit on December 8 and 9, a 100% digital event. She will be joined by personalities such as Eve Ensler, famous author of the “Vagina Monologues”.

2nd Women's Leadership International Summit

Other panels will also be with famous personalities like authors such as Metin Arditi (UNESCO ambassador and Giono prize) and David Foenkinos (Renaudot prize), who will give a masculine vision to women empowerment. These live encounters will be opened to the general public who will discover more than ten panels on vast subjects such as digital, audacity, Generation Z, intercultural dialogue, with notably President of UN Women France and activist Frédérique Bedos. In this context, the opening night will be dedicated to host famous actress Eva Longoria in order to get some funding to the Global Gift Foundation.

World League for the Right to Happiness

This prestigious foundation is doing an amazing work to help women empowerment and you can already register here to attend this very special event https://www.globalgiftfoundation.org. In Spanish: https://www.globalgiftfoundation.org/es/paz-interior/. The project is realized in partnership with the World League for the Right to Happiness.

Enjoy, here below, an interview with Guila-Clara Kessous, speaking about the initiative.

Why this international summit on women’s leadership? 

Guila-Clara Kessous / UNESCO’S ARTIS FOR PEACE

GCK – This summit is a moment of sharing reflection on the place of women and her capacity of action in the society. This conference aims to give the floor to speakers on the theme of women’s leadership, that is to say the ability for women to create follow-up, enthusiasm and to endorse a notion of power. An actress like Eva Longoria or an entrepreneur like Arielle Kitio have in common that they do not avoid from accepting the responsibility of being seen as a woman of power and create a male and female followership from this strength.

Why choosing a personality like Eva Longoria to open the entire summit linked to the Global Gift Foundation on the topic: “Finding inner strength”?

GCK – Eva Longoria is an example to follow in terms of women’s leadership. She accepts her femininity together with endorsing political views and creating followership on very important causes. Having her introducing the entire summit is the chance for women today to understand that you do not have to “play it like a man” to be successful in your leadership. She will reveal the secret to resist in those uncertain times and finding inner peace. Those elements will be precious for the rest of the summit, to have those advice in mind to be more efficiently talking about an intellectual approach once you find calm within yourself… The Global Gift Foundation was chosen for its amazing work helping women and children to find resilience. Beginning with this event was a beautiful message of hope.

For you, is there a difference between women’s and men’s leadership? If so, what would it be?

GCK – It is very difficult to make the difference between what comes from birth  and what comes from education between men and women. Today, “leadership” remains an unconscious collective representation linked to the power of the alpha male. This refers to this “first man”, the man who is a pioneer in all fields, to the point of having a predominance over women since he was the first human being on earth through the biblical figure of Adam. As a result, the “first man in the world”, “the first man on the moon”, has invaded our imagination to the point of having immediately in mind when we speak of “progress” or even “humanism”, this naked man’s body with four arms and four legs in a circle annotated by Leonardo da Vinci. Of course, its feminine equivalent by the famous painter, remains wisely with arms crossed and showing only an upper body. For me, there is no difference in the leadership made by men and women. The Mona Lisa could have been a leader, but she remains a “mysterious woman”… The Vitruvian Man, is stunning by the masculine power of strength and energy that comes from the drawing. 

Leonardo Da Vinci
Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and The Vitruvian Man

 In your opinion, is it necessary to steer away from stereotypes in 2021?

GCK – It is absolutely necessary to steer away from stereotypes in 2021 and fight them with all our strength. This starts with an education of respect for women and stop treating them as beings who must serve or define themselves only in relation to motherhood. Strengthening the girls’ self-confidence with early exposure to, among other things, team sports, strategic games and daring to let them speak more in public remains a basis for positive education. In the business world, it is also through the education of women AND men that this mental switch is taking place. Programs such as Eve from Danone, EllesVMH, among others, are there to help women to break the glass ceiling, to dare to run for positions of high responsibility without fear of not finding a balance between personal and professional life. There is still a lot to be done, especially now in times of COVID, with domestic violence that still puts women back to a level of victims. 

Personally, how would you describe your leadership, and how does it manifest itself?

GCK – I describe myself as an “artivist”, which means that I use my art to bring my action to the world. My work as an educator, a coach or an activist are all linked to my approach to drama. As art is not simply here to “create Beauty” as a “Mona Lisa” representation would do, but on the contrary, to help human leadership taking distance with our action. Today, I have the chance to help many leaders to give them the strength to be able to strengthen the embodiment of their character to give them all the depth of an authentic leadership, where vulnerability becomes revealing of powerful management. This is deeply linked to the body, in the posture, the non-verbal…

What actions have you personally implemented to achieve greater participation of women?

GCK – I have been a spokesperson for several founding texts of women’s emancipation through readings that I have recorded such as “I am Malala” by Malala Yousfzai or “A memory, a monologue, a rant, a prayer” under the direction of Eve Ensler. I am a facilitator of several programs of “Women Empowerment” in several Nasdaq companies and I often do conferences on the issue of women’s leadership. Training and coaching-in are also part of my solidarity action for beaten women through organizations such as the “Maison des Femmes” in France for example, or through UNESCO. Not to mention partnership actions to help young girls access education.

What would you like to tell the new generations (men and women), children and young adults on these subjects?

GCK – Not to be afraid…It is fear that creates this sense of empowerment in others. It’s very difficult for a woman not to be afraid: to be a “bad” daughter, a “bad” mother, a “bad” wife, a “bad” girl…With this injunction of “being good” that remains in the minds of women and girls. Today, what I want to say, especially to women, is not to be afraid of not being “good”, since the question is not to be good or bad, but simply to “be” themselves. It’s time to stop being afraid of not looking smart and speak up, that’s why participating in this second international summit on women’s leadership is so important.

To register to the summit click here: www.cil.events

To know more about Guila-Clara Kessous and her many accomplishments, enjoy here below our interview with the artist for our web series #CreativityWilLSaveUs Phase 2, When Venues Close, Windows Open. A Vision into the Future.

Hand Game, Management’s Game

“One possible etymology of the word “management” comes from the Latin “manus”, meaning “hand”. Indeed, the manager covers the underlying idea of “taking a team in hand” and leading it to accomplish their collective goals”.

For our ON-Business Column, French Human Rights Artist, Academic and UNESCO’s Artist for Peace Guila-Clara Kessous, presents an insightful short “manual” for negotiation professionals.

By Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD, Harvard University

“What do I do with my hands?” The lost look of the man or woman I’m coaching is staring at me with an air of supplication. The answer is not long in coming: “Would it be an idea to cut them off?” At least I get the reaction I wanted: a smile, which brings the tension down. In negotiation, the most revealing non-verbal information is always legible in facial expressions and hand positioning. Without making a catalogue of “good postures”, here are some avenues of exploration to better understand what is at stake in front of you, and especially within you.

Taking Things in Hand

One possible etymology of the word “management” comes from the Latin “manus”, meaning “hand”. Indeed, the manager covers the underlying idea of “taking a team in hand” and leading it to accomplish their collective goals. Whether horizontal or vertical management is involved, it is interesting to realize how important the relationship with the hands are in all corporate exchanges where the question of leadership comes into play. Negotiation is a perfect illustration of this. Wondering “in whose hands” I am amounts to wondering whether, as an employee, I am “in good hands”–those of my superior. Likewise, as a line manager, it is interesting to ask the question of who is “in my hands” about my employees, or even who I have “on hand” in my team as a resource person. Because the question of management touches on the hand, it touches on action, the “power to do”, or even on “power” for that matter. It is the same in negotiation. Is it a situation where “my hands are tied”, where my margin for action is low and my power of influence is reduced? Or, on the contrary, do I “have my hand” in this negotiation, and am I in a position of strength where I am able to express my will? These expressions, while certainly colourful, are not neutral with regard to the relationship with the hands, and it is not surprising that the codification of managerial relations, especially when it comes to negotiation, is done through a “handshake”.

A Frank Handshake

In the large Harvard University lecture hall where Marjorie North teaches the Executive Communication Skills course, people spend half an hour looking for ways to shake hands. There are a hundred of us, and everyone gets a handshake from the teacher, who describes the act as “soft,” “energetic,” “flat,” or “aggressive.” What’s exciting is taking context into consideration. Most of them work for governments and come to learn about different cultural practices, knowing that they are destined for representative positions. Thus, future ambassadors are sent by their states to seek a certain universality in their future communications and negotiations. We learn that there is no such thing as a universal handshake. For an Asian, a handshake must be respectful, because touching the body of the other is a real intrusion into privacy. This practice gives rise to a handshake that a European or American could describe as “soft” or “supple”, since the interlocutor refuses to exert any kind of control over his or her partner from the outset. On the contrary, a good handshake, from the American or European point of view, is a dynamic gesture: the challenge is to show your partner positive energy from the start (see also the article: “Getting a Yes, Sí, Ja, Hai or Da”). Let us recall that the American-style “hug”, where the two parties embrace each other by patting each other on the back, goes back to a traditional process of checking that the latter is not carrying any weapon by fumbling their hand on the back of the other. In this perspective, shaking hands is a reminder of the equality of both parties, who agree not to resort to means of coercion.

My advice for a frank handshake is to remember that frankness comes from a certain authenticity of the individual who is able to adapt to the culture of another. There is no recommended speed to “draw”. There must be harmony between the two parties. Whether you reach out your hand first or respond to an outstretched hand, you know very quickly that once contact has been established with this open and firm hand that is yours, you must adapt yourself to the strength that is offered to you. If the hand of the other party is soft, adapt by responding with the same intensity, even if this goes against what you might consider natural. If, on the contrary, the hand is firm and dynamic in the way it grips yours, know how to respond immediately and not be afraid to keep your hand tight, even if it is a little longer than you are used to. This Macron/Trump style interaction will make it seem that you have accepted the challenge and will be well received by the secondary party. Feel free to practice with friends and family.

To The (Not So) Innocent, Hands Full

Many negotiators arrive at their meetings with a lot of paperwork. The left hand grasps a filled file and the right is already incidentally extended towards the other, before quickly clinging to the temple of glasses to remove them once seated. Without making generalities, it is easy to say that anyone who needs to keep their hands busy during a negotiation–be it in the fixed form of holding something (pocket, backrest, bezel, or stage podium, among others) or in the form of parasitic movement (playing with fingers on the table, biting one’s nails, fiddling with a ring or a watch)–needs energetic support and maintenance. Whether conscious or unconscious, this way of neutralizing the hands is interesting because it is an action derivative of what can be experienced as passive in negotiation: listening. Listening is essential in negotiation. It is in fact the one who listens the most in a negotiation that has the best chance of winning it.

Listening, when it is sincere and respectful, is by no means passive. In fact, we talk about active listening, that is, listening that allows action to move forward. But the one who is listening is also portraying the image of listening to the one who speaks. Whoever uses these derivations is in need of anchoring their hands in a certain state, which does not allow them to show the hands completely. But not showing is hiding! In order to negotiate well, one must dare to “show a white paw” and, to do so, accept (at least at the beginning of the negotiation) to simply put one’s hands on the table or on one’s knees so that the other understands that there is nothing to hide. In a negotiation, it is not so much a matter of building trust at the start, but of deconstructing the distrust that naturally sets in when power is at stake in a relationship. Agreeing to let yourself be seen and to let your hands be seen may be seen as a sign of weakness, but it is the only intercultural way for the other person to realise your effort to be authentic and your willingness to enter into a relationship of sincere politeness.

The Heart On The Hand

As far as posture is concerned, the most common recommendations for successful negotiation are to not be too emotional, to not show too much emotion. However, this does not mean that you have to completely disconnect from others and appear robotic in your words and gestures. If hands must deconstruct mistrust by daring to show themselves, this does not mean that they should remain glued to the table or on their knees. There are a thousand and one possible variations in hand gestures. You have to be able to make them “take off” at some point. They usually take off on their own, acting naturally, when you stop focusing on them and are with the other person.

The generosity that the expression “heart on hand” implies in negotiation has nothing to do with what you’re going to drop as money in the process, but has to do with a generosity of presence to the other, what I call “presential generosity”. The more you are going to increase this presence to and for the other, and especially the more you are going to show to them, the more they are going to agree to give back. The ballet of the hands will take place naturally if you are in a conversational setting with the aim of finding a solution with the other, not against them. You will avoid gestures that can be very misinterpreted during a negotiation, such as “hand washing” (rubbing your hands together), which can give the impression that you are being venal. We should also avoid gestures that may mean the opposite of what we mean in the other person’s culture. This is the case of the famous V of victory made with the palm of the hand towards oneself, which means victory for a German, the number two for an American, and a finger of honour for a Briton. As a general rule, one should therefore avoid separating the fingers too much or showing too much with the index finger, especially in intercultural negotiations. Filming is a technique that all specialists recommend. As long as you do not expect to see the image that you impose on those who negotiate with you, you will not be able to correctly find a posture that is in line with what you are saying, and consequently, you will be unable to achieve congruence.

About Guila-Clara Kessous

Clara Guila Kessous
Guila-Clara Kessous

Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD. is a research professor, a coach, and a UNESCO Artist for Peace. Recipient of a doctorate under Elie Wiesel’s direction, she is using theatrical techniques to help suffering populations (survivors of genocide and human rights violations) better express themselves and have a stronger impact on new generations. She is also certified in positive psychology by Harvard University Professor Tal Ben Shahar and accompanies people to achieve stronger resilience in times of crisis.  She deals with issues of positive leadership, crisis communication, and managerial posture using theatrical techniques and role-playing. Following the coaching of suffering populations, she accompanies personalities, executive committees, senior executives, and managers in crisis contexts in France and abroad. Today, she is working with healthcare personnel, ranging from executives to nurses, to provide coaching and counseling to those serving at the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

CORONAVIRUS 2020: UPDATE OF THE ANTHROPOS SYSTEM

Or the delicate art of contactless hands-free connection. A reflection on the world after COVID-19

By Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD, Harvard University
Edited by Kyra Johnson

Peter M. Friess
A screenshot from CORO1, a visionary interpretation of the COVID-19 realized by Brussels-based Conceptual Digital Artist PETERMFRIESS based on the LAMAφ improvisation ensemble. Watch it on our #CreativityWillSaveUs Series HERE. For more info about PETERMFRIESS click here: www.petermfriess.com.

As the world continues to undergo the effects of the coronavirus in all aspects of life, it becomes necessary to recognize what a post-COVID world looks like, as well as to consider it to be a sort of separator of space and time. Such a world-altering event, after all, is so extreme and drastic that it reflects an almost messianic importance. 

Imagining oneself in a post-coronavirus future is already to recognize the pandemic’s role as a separator of space-time. After all, aren’t we in 2020 AD, or even 1441 A.D., 1441 Hegira, Chinese 4718, or 5780 in the Jewish calendar, to name but a few? All these calendars base their point of departure, the year 1, on a founding event which radically separates the coming era from the preceding one. Most importantly, the new era also “updates” the cultural, territorial, social, behavioural, and economic system. We now must seek out a global meaning in all civilizations, which comes from a posteriori to the event since the year zero does not exist. We therefore begin to count long after the event, which only takes on its meaning once we choose its meaning. Therefore, in the current case of COVID-19, we are still in the year zero. Let us try to see what societal norms we are radically leaving behind in order to go towards year one, Post-COVID, and what this new era of ours will potentially look like. 

Another screenshot from CORO1 by PETERMFRIESS

Turning to a New Sun

In our society prior to the coronavirus, human beings shared in the tropism—the natural turning towards an external stimulus–exhibited by many plants; we are like sunflowers, following the rays of the stimuli we have grown accustomed to in order to support our own social growth. What we are leaving to go into the Post-COVID world is above all an anthropological tropism that acted as an irresistible and unconscious force, a reflex behavior that seemed so natural to us.  This behavior that seemed so natural to us and pushed us to use all of our five senses fearlessly in our relationship with others is now absent in lieu of our inability to psychically reach out. Whether they were close or unknown to us, accepting the other meant bringing them into our social “spheres”: the professional sphere, the family sphere, the personal intimate sphere. Each of these spheres has required some sort of a contact greeting. This human-to-human “recognition” seemed so natural to us–whether it was a kiss, handshake, or hug–that it had become a tropism. 

We collectively failed to realize how physical contact norms may endanger us if we had to consider the other or oneself as “potentially contagious”. In the face of the virus, us metaphorical sunflowers are forced to find a new type of sun to turn to in order to achieve and maintain our social growth.

For example, this “new sun” is already somewhat adopted by Asian cultures, where it is custom to avoid touching each other during greetings, particularly in China, where salutations are exchanged at a distance, with heads bowed. We are therefore encouraged to follow the Chinese example in our professional spheres, where even prior to the pandemic, physical exchanges were rarely intimate, and are therefore the most appropriate type of contact greeting to undergo procedural changes in our Post-COVID Year One. The choice of the “elbow” salutation (widely remembered as the “Ebola Shake” salutation, born during the Ebola epidemic) is appropriate, and even already common, in several cultures. What does this mean in terms of anthropological tropism of finding a new stimulus in which to grow from? We would orient our physical interactions to a much more “Asian fashion”: less touching, interruptions, and emotions, and more observation, silence, and neutrality. Adopting foreign greetings may lead us to culture shock, and feelings of “Fear and Trembling” may await us in this “Asia-tization” of our methods of greeting, and perhaps even our modes of societal functioning.

Another screenshot from CORO1 by PETERMFRIESS.

Learning from Porcupines: A New “Hands Free” Connection

If we cannot enjoy our typical experiences of physical contact anymore, does this mean that we all need to find an “inner warmth” to replace what no longer comes from others? This is what philosopher  Arthur Schopenhauer recommended in his famous parable of the porcupines in “Parerga and Paralipomena”, in which he used this group of animals to explain the paradox of human contact. During a frosty snowstorm, the porcupines huddled together in tight-knit groups to keep warm, but ultimately suffered from each other’s sharp prickles, since they were too close together.  They were forced to find a “medium distance” where they could benefit from their collective warmth yet avoid harming others with their spikes. Schopenhauer then writes: 

“Thus the need for society, born of the emptiness and monotony of their inner life, pushes people towards each other; but their many unsympathetic ways and unbearable defects scatter them again. The average distance they eventually discover and at which living together becomes possible is politeness and good manners.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

What we come to understand from this example is that, during this pandemic, we must learn how to benefit from one another’s metaphorical warmth while still keeping our distance, as the infectious disease has become our own set of sharp spines that could damage others, should we fail to maintain a proper distance. Would we have failed in the principle of “politeness” by abruptly changing our socially “average distance” into a brand-new “sanitary distance”? There are no more possible contacts to fall back on once the pandemic has passed, because it is the aggregation of the whole system that is changing. The anthropological system described by Arthur Schopenhauer assumed that groups of humans push towards each other by aggregates “born from the emptiness and monotony of their inner life”. But does this kind of emptiness still exist today? In accordance with our metaphor, the quills of porcupines have grown and become a type of interconnected network of antennas that connect without contact, as if their exchange of bodily warmth is done virtually–it is “hands-free”. 

Check out the Porcupines & Schopenhauer Story @illacertus Youtube Channel – Animated book summaries focusing on strategy, power & seduction with a flair for history & how you can use the knowledge within today to further your own cause.

This is the basis of our real-world rapidly expanding Internet connectivity, with intelligent underground, underwater, aerial and space smart grids… 5G obliges! The interconnected system of porcupines that gathered together to keep warm symbolically evolved to become an emanation of our own individual social antennas. We each radiate our own quills that serve as a protective “crown”–which, strangely enough, looks similar to the shape of the coronavirus when viewed under an electron microscope. These antennas are also our ways of relating to each other. This explains why we are able to have hundreds of friends on Facebook without ever actually meeting them in person. In 1992, anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggested that 150 was the maximum number of people with whom we could maintain stable social relationships, so as not to exceed the maximum size allowed by the information processing capacity of our brain. Humans have an incredible capacity to connect, but this pandemic creates a blockage for us to demonstrate our typical human warmth. When “emptiness” no longer exists outside, it is reborn inside us via a “lack of oxytocin”, which is the hormone of love, trust and bonding created through physical contact (such as caresses, kisses, etc.). We are about to live through an incredible moment of withdrawal where our only option to remain hyper-connected is to use social media platforms, where we can engage in a sort of “hands-free” style of interaction (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok, among others). But is keeping this mode of “no contact” relationships, truly without risk of contamination? It may present a dangerous “Zoom-ification” of our world where others only appear in two dimensions, “framed” in a relationship controlled by a “power” button that you just have to press once for others to disappear.

Another screenshot from CORO1 by PETERMFRIESS.

The Return of “Courtesy”

This “love from afar” that we must now practice is reminiscent of the ballads of “courtly love” that were sung by  William IX of Aquitaine “Roman de la Rose”  and the troubadours (traveling poets) of the twelfth century. In this medieval context, songs describe the object of love: the rose; and the woman, the object of wooing, is far away, but one must surpass the presented obstacles in order to fulfill their conquest. In our non-medieval context: less oxytocin hormone, therefore, equates less touching, yet provides more dopamine, the hormone of success. A “setting far away”, which is the new distant location of individuals in our lives, allows us to rework the path that leads to others. This medieval approach to human connection seems very outdated. 

On the contrary, the practice of working through obstacles to achieve our object of interest is anchored deep within us, in what we are desperately trying to find again during this time: a rediscovered physical closeness with our companions and an ambition to take on a brand new, albeit mysterious, future. a brand new future.

The term “courtesy” does not force us to return to feudalistic style, but allows us to rethink our “porcupine” social system on a human scale–that is to say, we must insert ourselves into metaphorical “courtyards”: small bordered spaces in which a finite number of individuals who share common values reside as a community. Taking residence in these spaces is not advocating for the return of the aristocracy, or the feudal reign of the King and his Court, but rather, it is to set up each individual to have the capacity of a “power” button; not to make others entirely disappear, but to simply make them leave their screen, like Tom Baxter in Woody Allen’s film  “The Purple Rose of Cairo”. We have the ability to be aware of the collective world, thanks in particular to the analysis grid of the 17 Sustainable Development objectives adopted by the UN in 2015, and the credo of the platform of action for the coronavirus, set up in mid-March by the World Economic Forum in Davos. We know what we have to do, but we don’t do it yet… even if we hear many people say that, despite the difficulty of containment, what we will regret most is this long period of time when we could have “settled down” for a moment before returning to the frenzy of active life. This is the principle of the “JOMO” (the “Joy Of Missing Out”). This joy celebrates disconnection from an idealized world in order to concentrate on real life, on our truly important relationships without feeling fearful under the gaze of others.

Another screenshot from CORO1 by PETERMFRIESS.

Towards Optimistic Leadership  

What about business in our “professional sphere”? In comparison to the familial sphere, it is not the one that is most naturally useful to society, but it is probably the one that has the most responsibilities in terms of helping everyone “hold it together”. In Latin, “Entre-prehendere” means “to take in one’s hands”, and “to take the risk” of creating something valuable that is beyond financial gain. This is where the “courtyard” that the company represents is so important since it must recreate a will to create, share, and co-construct together, and to bring water to the metaphorical mill of society so that the economy can turn. Just as an individual struggles with the idea of death at the sound of a cough, a company thinks it is finished when it sees its sales drop during the last two months. However, they are far from being finished.

Just like the individual, if companies take on the responsibility to not contaminate and not be contaminated, they enter a phase of change in accordance with what the virus has taught us: how to resist by breathing. To continue to breathe in spite of the miasma of this virus means to, against all odds, feed on the air of others and accept that it may be necessary to empty oneself of their own air so that another can feed on it.

This circulation of air must take place in a healthy environment, between healthy individuals, for a healthy purpose. The return of deconfinement in the workplace should aim to achieve this healthy system at the managerial level: leaders must regain the health of the collective through a narrative sense. Telling a story of survival is crucial in terms of resilience. And for that, the leader’s communication is essential at both the verbal and non-verbal level. When presenting content, a leader must make the choice of using positive, unifying, hope-creating words, but above all,  they must be transparent with the situation, for that will make the difference. Far too many leaders would like to apply the perception of the pre-COVID to the post-COVID era by making people believe that nothing has happened. On the contrary, it is by underlining the difficulties undergone during this time of collective survival, and by detailing the different steps to follow going forwards, that unity will be able to motivate the team. This is what the “optimistic” leader should look for, to use the ideas of the famous Tal Ben Shahar, professor of “happiness” (a form of positive psychology) at Harvard University, in his book The Happiness of Being a Leader: a clever mix of optimism and realism. The leader must go beyond their bodily barriers. It is their own body, which has been denied so much in the virtual relationship, that they will have to re-inhabitat. This will show how the leader will be judged, measured, and despised, and if they can be followed. For the body does not lie and when one is the image of power in a company, it is the body that reveals its weaknesses, impostor syndrome, or megalomaniacal impulses.

Another screenshot from CORO1 by PETERMFRIESS.

Even the newly named “coronial” generation of babies coming from this era (including X Æ A-12, the aptly named newborn of Elon Musk) have a body, which is what remains to us as irreducibly fragile and therefore “human”. So let us become guards of our own body by not listening to those who want to amputate it under the narrative of reinforcing our performance with “painkillers” and “anti-epileptics” by inhibiting nerves or by cutting off our sensitivity where it hurts. In medicine, just as in business, we should be wary of symptomatic treatments that would create a Guillain-Barré syndrome, a consequential fallout suffered by many people who have been ill with corona: a loss of sensation that can lead to paralysis of the extremities (hands/feet). In a company, it is necessary to look at how the virus was experienced by all the employees, offering at all levels (from “feet” to “hands”) not only spaces for words, but real possibilities to integrate and collaborate “in the common courtyard” with real recognition–without such an approach, it would lead to a paralysis of the company’s whole collective body . “Stop applauding us and come and put your hands in the sludge instead,” a doctor said to me the other day. He didn’t necessarily mean making a medical commitment, but contributing in some way to ensuring that there is a dedication to relieving the harshness of daily life, each at one’s own level. What can be said about what awaits us in the post-COVID era is a real human question that searches for meaning and involvement at the individual level. 

This shared sense that we all have within us is a voice that guarantees the survival of our species and tells us to “do and play our part” as if we are an orchestra with an infinite number of instruments. Our song would be an uproar that is certainly very powerful because of its resonant force but would have no collective melody and even less unison.

At the moment, the system of the world has just been updated and unifying platforms, such as TikTok’s viral trends, have an impressive capacity to be its own type of virus and spread the same pantomime repeated across the continents as if it is a domino effect of one following after another.The virtual spread of ideas is a unifying force that helps us expand our perception of the world as a whole. Contrastingly, however, Voltaire’s satire Candide tells us of the importance of staying in one’s own social sphere and recognizing their place in the world. After having done all kinds of pantomimes and lived in various burlesque situations whilst traveling the world, the title character comes back home and advises us that it would be best for him to simply “cultivate his garden”…  not in terms of being selfishly interested only in his small plot of physical land, but to play at his level in the territorial, political, economic, and social issues–his own garden, his own yard. This is not a reflection of a post-COVID individualism, but a warning against a possible hyper-connected system that is overwhelmed by the desire to once again restore our norms of contact. The solution seems simple: does “cultivating your garden” not mean less connection and more contact with reality?

ABOUT GUILA-CLARA KESSOUS

Guila Clara Kessous
Guila-Clara Kessous

Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD. is a research professor, a coach, and a UNESCO Artist for Peace. Recipient of a doctorate under Elie Wiesel’s direction, she is using theatrical techniques to help suffering populations (survivors of genocide and human rights violations) better express themselves and have a stronger impact on new generations. She is also certified in positive psychology by Harvard University Professor Tal Ben Shahar and accompanies people to achieve stronger resilience in times of crisis.  She deals with issues of positive leadership, crisis communication, and managerial posture using theatrical techniques and role-playing. Following the coaching of suffering populations, she accompanies personalities, executive committees, senior executives, and managers in crisis contexts in France and abroad. Today, she is working with healthcare personnel, ranging from executives to nurses, to provide coaching and counseling to those serving at the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

Find out more about Guila-Clara Kessous on our special interview for the #CreativityWilLSaveUS Phase 2 Series

2002/2020 – The Empire At The End Of The Decadence?

ON-Editorial New Year’s 2020. A letter and a poem from our Editor in Chief Tommaso Cartia

Clock

I am the empire at the end of the decadence. Prophet of a world that has stopped being prophetical. Milan. Italy. Someday, some night, in 2002. I woke up in the middle of that night, with a virulent urgency, with a trepidatious feeling. With those words on my mind. I wrote them down, quickly, and they suddenly opened a breach into my consciousness. An engulfing stream derailed my perception of space and time and I traveled.

I traveled through a feeling, I traveled across the sentiment of a world in turmoil, of an entire collectivity languishing. Those sudden travels are little miracles; on rare occasions, benevolent muses grant writers access to extraordinary emotional vehicles. At that time, I was “growing pains” because I was an adolescent and there was plenty to be mad at in the world in my “roaring twenties”. But that night, those excruciating roars were not shouting out my insecurities in front of the mirror or the feeling of being perceived as an ambiguous character always somewhat on the outside, out of place everywhere. That night was the face of the world and its distortions, grotesquely staring at me from the pieces of a fragmented mirror.

Since September 2001, the world itself was feeling ambiguous, precarious, on the outside, out of place everywhere. The world was turning into a fearful adolescent, certain only of its paradoxical uncertainty. We are all familiar with that feeling because it happened to us. We are all familiar with that feeling because it is happening to us. It began when the first minuscule ember of those crumbling towers started filling the air and our consciousness with a vicious nebula of unclarity. And by the time those towers reached ground zero, we all reached ground zero. Our end, or our beginning? The people of my generation who didn’t experience apocalyptic disruptive events like wars, pestilences, or natural calamities, suddenly knew what it felt like to be a fragile ember in the vastity of an unknown universe.

So that night, something that was dormant, something that I was blocking from my mind in my naive attempt to believe that “everything will be alright,” erupted with the force of a world quivering to come to life. A new cycle was beginning, but we were stuck at our ground zero, a step behind the past, not yet a step ahead into the future. And yet a 0 looks like a circle, and the circle is an infinite perfect shape. Our end, or our beginning? And in between, what’s in between? It is maybe what the astrophysics tend to call liminal times, and the people of faith purgatory times? It is definitely a time of purges when all of the infections need to be spurted out of our systems, all of the wounds stitched and disinfected, all of our mental and spiritual clutter, dismantled.

If that was the beginning of a new cycle and that new cycle started with purgatory mode, are we at the end of this purgatory?. 2002/2020, looks like some sort of cryptic symbolism that could satisfy the many conspiracy theorists out there. This pandemic, the fragility of our ecosystems, the autarchic leaderships, the rampant inequities and iniquities all around the globe, the corruption, the violence, the constant danger, this indefatigable feeling of fatigue and tremendous uncertainty… and so on and so inescapably forth… is this the acme, the tip of the iceberg, the final act, the extreme ablution of all of the viral infections we need to free ourselves from?

I would hope a benevolent muse comes back to grant me access to a piece of prophetic truth. The French poet Paul Verlaine was definitely granted a grand truth when he wrote in his poem”Langueur” (Languishing) of 1883, “I am the Empire at the end of the Decadence,” a lyric that was inspired by the collapse of the Roman Empire addressing the collapse of his own era, and that later inspired my feeling of collapsing of our era in 2002. Three eras, the same languishing, decadent feeling; is this enough to satisfy the category of “prophetic truth”? If we dive into the recurrent liminal cycles of human history, do we find there an answer to our dangling present? Because after a liminal cycle, a golden era always arises and did arise. And maybe that benevolent muse came to me one time and for all during this 10 years of purgatory time in which we are living. And so envisioning the prescient beginning of our golden era, I let that adolescent of 2002 in his “roaring twenties” respond to my anxiety of this current 2020 and give me hope, and possibly give it to the reader, that purgatory mode is about to collapse. If this is ground zero all over again, let’s turn it into an infinite circle of enlightenment.

AMEN
2002/2020

Books

by Tommaso Cartia

KNOWLEDGE LEADS TO FREEDOM
FREEDOM LEADS TO SOLITUDE.

There is just freedom of reprinted thoughts,
of partisan words
of non-debatable debates.
There is a vile terrorism bombarding the unknown
a wall of obscurantism
feverishly patched up every day
not to let a drop of truth shine through.
It is there where from a crack on the wall
a glimpse of light filters
that I dive
inebriated by the quench of Truth
soaked up in a rainstorm of Mystery
a sweet prisoner of Knowledge
of Reason, of Love.
I’m a researcher of liquefying principles
archeologist and funambulist
over the cut of this wall
conceptual space
I travel, I abandon.
I try to escape this towering inferno
this cold war’s flying arsenals
these weapons of mass distractions
this incessant restoration of walls of dogmatism.

I am the empire at the end of the decadence
prophet of a world that has stopped being prophetical
I know I can still burn
my body can still be put at stake
my words can be put at stake
at the ground zero of our involution
on disheartening altars
where the web-masters
preach the way
and humiliate differences
and sacrifice intellects.
Can the freedom in my words
sound like pain and punishment?
Can I be extinguished
Can I be banished and vanished
inside of this mass that needs to be leaven
bulked and fed and poisoned
with apathetic resignation?

From the inside of this mass’ wall
Let’s continue to conduct heat
Let’s continue to conduct Knowledge
Let’s continue to conduct Love
Let’s push for a change of status
Let us be

FREE

Free to say that we can’t change, choose, control, or recolor the skin we are born in, and the sexuality we are born with. That we can’t believe in imposed absolute dogmas that are in fact nothing but relative. Let us have the freedom to discover our own sense of the Absolute, instead of that being cut, edit, banalized, and repackaged for us on plastic bibles. And let us have access to all the books and grant back to the messiahs their historical sense. Let us overturn the hegemony of autarchic patriarchs and let’s land powers also in women’s and in multicolored hands. Let us rephrase this inaccurate paradox:

… we are all equals …

… let the different be equals to the equals and the equals to the different …

I pray, that the act of Love would be granted and permitted to everybody.
I pray, for the end of racial and sexual crusades and of cultural exterminations.
I pray, for the Truth, not to be hidden behind beautiful lies.
I pray to Know, I pray to Love, I pray to Breathe, I pray to Live.

AMEN.

About the Author

THE STORYTELLER WHO CONNECTS THE DOTS OF ARTS & CULTURE

Tommaso Cartia is a NYC-based writer, journalist, published author, media specialist, and publicist with a decade of experience in media communications, publishing, and the entertainment business, in the US as well as in Italy. Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Creative Pois-On, Tommaso is the mind and the pen behind Storytelier,the editorial project by Creative Pois-On. He has a successful track record in designing brilliant interviews that narrate beautiful stories. Among the celebrities, he had the chance to interview, Writer Erica Jong, Writer Michael Cunningham, Actress Gina Lollobrigida, and Valeria Golino, Director Michael Apted, to name a few.  He is also the founder of the editorial project The Digital Poet – To Live Dreams, To Dream Of Lives and author of the lyrical memoir Reincarnazione Sentimentale, Italy, 2014.

“Who Wants Me As A Leader?”

ON-Business. “Leadership must come from the heart and not from the mind.” Pascale de Senarclens-Hargous

By Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD.

“The whole ambition of positive leadership rests on the ability of the leader to question himself. To work to obtain the help of others without resorting to force or authority, to cultivate a sincere desire to respect the other and to act in his interest are the challenges of the positive leader. But how does one achieve it? How do we arrive at this “supreme excellence” that Sun Tzu described as a “win without fighting” in The Art of War? We must remember this key sentence from Pascale de Senarclens-Hargous: “Leadership must come from the heart and not from the mind.” Or more exactly, positive leadership comes by daring to ask the following question based on genuine humility: “Who wants me as a leader?” It implies a permanent questioning of the leader, not with respect to the excellence of the information he transmits, but of his ability to communicate to the other in a deep desire to be understood and generate a positive impact. Too many leaders continue to think that their business expertise is enough to exercise their leadership role. This is wrong. It is the ability to gather positively, to “excite”, to “federate” its employees that will make the difference in a world where the selection of applications becomes more and more competitive. Finally, to paraphrase this metaphor of Native American wisdom, we must admit that we all have two leaders in us. The first that represents serenity, love, and kindness. The second who cultivates fear, greed, and hatred. And remember that whoever wins is the one we feed!”

About Guila-Clara Kessous

Clara Guila Kessous
Guila-Clara Kessous

Guila-Clara Kessous, PhD. is a research professor, a coach, and a UNESCO Artist for Peace. Recipient of a doctorate under Elie Wiesel’s direction, she is using theatrical techniques to help suffering populations (survivors of genocide and human rights violations) better express themselves and have a stronger impact on new generations. She is also certified in positive psychology by Harvard University Professor Tal Ben Shahar and accompanies people to achieve stronger resilience in times of crisis.  She deals with issues of positive leadership, crisis communication, and managerial posture using theatrical techniques and role-playing. Following the coaching of suffering populations, she accompanies personalities, executive committees, senior executives, and managers in crisis contexts in France and abroad. Today, she is working with healthcare personnel, ranging from executives to nurses, to provide coaching and counseling to those serving at the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

Can We Learn Business Secrets From Artists?

For our ON-Business column, our Business Innovation Strategist and Artistic Director Daniela Pavan distills tips on creativity and success in times of COVID-19.

For years people in creative roles were kind of left out of serious business conversations, which instead used to take place only among the upper management in boardrooms. More recently, it looks like Creativity is knocking at the door of those rooms and has gained the right to sit at the decision-making tables as a driver of innovation. The creative spark that used to be just an aesthetic abstraction and somehow light and breezy concept, is now an important leadership quality that is dramatically transforming the way we do business.

By Daniela Pavan

The challenging scenario created by the pandemic emergency is giving creativity an even more crucial role in our lives. We’ve been through so many changes during the past months: we changed the way we work, the way we interact with each other, the way we shop. Change looks always scary, and facing change can throw us in a state of chaos. In times of crisis like these, who should we turn to, and learn from? My answer is: from creative minds, from artists. You may remember Darwin’s evolution theory about “the survival of the fittest”. It’s not the strongest or the smartest one who survives but the one who can adapt more quickly to change and to new contexts. The ability to adapt to change combined with resilience (the quality of recovering quickly from failure and adversity, and using the opportunity for your personal development,) seems to be the best match to navigate this unprecedented scenario. A set of skills that are part of artists and creatives’ natural attitude. 

Darwin

The Creative Pois-On #CreativityWillSaveUs video and podcast series wants to demonstrate this exactly. We started the project to give voice to prominent figures from the world of art, culture, and entertainment during the COVID-19 emergency, inviting them to come together to reflect on the central value that art brings to humanity during the harsh quarantine times. We have been blessed by so many great contributions from artists from all over the world: 50+ artists for 10 episodes plus a special one celebrating Pride Day. Following these artists and watching them from a privileged point of view, we realized that even between their differences in terms of disciplines and artistic attitudes, they all have two fundemantal traits in common: resilience and adaptability. In fact, they all managed to keep their creative spark alive and produce arts against all of the odds. Even the performing artists who have seen their venues abruptly shut down, basically overnight.

#CreativityWillSaveUs – Follow our Series on our Official Youtube Channel Creative Pois-On

So now the question is, how can we learn to be ourselves, as resilient and flexible? Here are some of the reflections that our series #CreativityWillSaveUs inspired me:

1 Change the narrative: when something bad or unpredictable happens, many of us spend a lot of time in a “rumination mood”, reliving the event over and over in our heads. This way we don’t allow ourselves to move forward. What I learned from our artists is the importance and the courage to change a story by building a new one. How? By writing, singing, playing music, painting, acting, there are infinite creative ways that we could all explore. The goal is to be brave enough to face our deepest thoughts and feelings, and not to necessarily produce a memoir-like masterpiece, courage as a first step is already a big accomplishment. And precisely about this topic, I found out that there is a study from 1988 that demonstrates how a sample of people who embarked in an Expressive Writing program for four days was healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later if compared to some others whose task was to write about some more random topics. This is valid, in my opinion, for any form of art because it forces us to deeply analyze each one of our ideas and allows us to see things from new perspectives. I personally enjoy changing my narratives through acting and dancing, because they both allow me to explore the story from different angles.

2 Practice Meditation: you may already know that usually, our most painful thoughts revolve around our past and our future. We may regret things that went wrong or we are anxious about the things that will happen or not happen to us. Practicing mindfulness and meditation keeps us centered and concentrated on the present. being, the now. You may think that our main concerns are attached to the present time we are living. You might have this sensation, even though really, our lives are made of a series of circumstances that often we can’t control. Therefore meditation can help us stay focused on what we can control, accept what we can’t control and think more clearly about our next steps. The past months have been very painful for me as well, on a personal level. I want to suggest a practice that I like to do: mindful breathing. I usually get very anxious because I am always projecting my thoughts into the future of what might happen. This exercise can be done for 5 or 7 minutes a day, or every time you feel under stress. Find a comfortable position. You can be seated on a chair or on the floor, on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight, with your hands rested comfortably. Allow yourself to relax and become aware of your body seated, the sensations that it experiences, the connection with the floor or the chair. Remove any tightness or tension. Simply breathe. Feel the natural flow of breath, while inhaling and exhaling. Notice how you feel while you breathe. See if you can feel the sensations of your breath, one breath at a time. Now as you do this, your mind may start to wander and think about different things. It’s very natural, so no worries. When this happens, gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.

IKIGAI
Photo by Mayank Baranwal on Unsplash

3 Find your Ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese word that means purpose in life. We can say that Ikigai is the secret ingredient for happiness. Ikigai is about finding fulfillment, happiness, and balance in life. Many of us think that our job, family, and passions are different solos, like separate aspects of life. The Ikigai philosophy instead puts the accent on a fundamental truth: nothing in life is a solo… but everything is connected… as we always say here at Creative Pois-On. So yes, according to the Ikigai, it is possible to be true to what you love, live a fulfilled life, and make a positive impact on the life of others. So let’s dive in, what’s the definition of Ikigai. The Ikigai is the intersection between what you love, what the world needs, what you can get paid for, and what you are good at. Take a few minutes to write down some keywords, concepts, and ideas that come up to your mind for each of the four categories above and for overlapping areas. Think about how these elements may relate to each other. And then, leave space in your mind to whatever element, word, category, may naturally emerge by bringing these four elements together. So when you have this centerpiece clear in your mind found it, think about what is the first very simple step you can immediately take, and that it could be a practical expression of this centerpiece, which is your Ikigai. Are you curious to try? Artists, creative minds as well as successful businessmen all over the world, have in common the fact that they have found their Ikigai, that they are crystal clear about their purpose in life. That is what keeps them motivated, resilient but also flexible and perseverant.

Now it’s up to you. Ready to take your first step? 

Learn more about Creative Pois-On Business Services HERE.

About Daniela Pavan

THE STORYTELLER WHO CONNECTS THE DOTS OF CREATIVITY, INNOVATION, AND BUSINESS

Daniela Pavan

Born and raised in Italy, Daniela Pavan is now based in NYC. This is one of the reasons why she is blessed with both Italian artistic passion and NYC’s unique edge. With 20 years of experience working in the world of digital, design and communication with big companies, agencies as well as small start-ups, Daniela has also a strong collaboration with the University of Venice (Italy) where she won a grant for a research focused on understanding if and how creativity and design can be drivers for innovation. Co-Founder, Artistic Director, Creativity Curator, and Business Mind of Creative Pois-On.  She is also our resident “bridge builder” as she is fluent in both business and creativity! Our creatives would be lost without her! Follow her Creative Bridge episodes on the Creative Pois-On Podcast.

ON-Poetry Presents “Jupiter Rising” by David James Parr

Jupiter

We inaugurate our ON-Poetry column featuring the second video from the new book by David James Parr – PERSONAL TRAINING: poetry & exercise tips

The video-poem “Jupiter Rising” is read by the author and shot around various locations in NYC. PERSONAL TRAINING is now available on Amazon and Kindle. Please enjoy here below both the video and the poem.

Enjoy the video Courtesy of David James Parr Fiction Official Youtube

Jupiter Rising

David James Parr
The book is available now on Amazon and Kindle.

Steady as my glass that just fell off of the table—

don’t worry it wasn’t full—

and what phase of the moon are we in now?

which tide just got pulled?

Today I felt all bitter and fucked up

like a poem by Dorothy Parker

brittle on the outside

but fragile at the core

They say Jupiter is visible tonight

but I can’t see it through all this rain

On 9th Avenue the boys are cruising one another

            and they’re all starting to look the same.

So Jupiter is rising high 

in the cloudy sky tonight

Michaelangelo must have spilled his paints again

leaving us this pearly drop of light.

Today I felt like a Henry James heroine

crafty and unfulfilled

dreaming of a perfect match

                                    in a rudely imperfect world.

In my back pocket I have a business card

from—I think his name was Ed?

He works in technology

but I didn’t hear a word he said.

I was only thinking how the way he held his glass was sort of like

the way you held my wrist in the movie theatre

stroking up and down as if I might break

stroking up and down as if I might purr.

Tonight I felt like a French film star

leaving by the back door

I’d tell you la raison porquoi

                        but then again, what for?

Can you see Jupiter from where you sleep?

Can you see it from his bed?

In my back pocket I have a business card 

—I’m sure his name was Ed.

Today I felt like a ballad by Adele 

all bittersweet and corny

distraught and crying out your name

            yet deep down just plain horny.

Jupiter is visible again tonight 

impersonating a star

like a drag queen on a good night

think we could get there by car?

And how long before it twirls around?

Blinking its big red eye

How long before it rolls back over?

to a completely different sky.

About the Author

David James Parr
David James Parr lensed by Shushu Chen

Writer David James Parr was born on a cul-de-sac in suburban Ohio and grew up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, where he learned how to spell “cul-de-sac” and to mispronounce “rural”, respectively. He is the author of the novels Violet Peaks and Beauty Marksas well as the collection How To Survive Overwhelming Loss & Loneliness in 5 Easy Steps: Stories. His title story How To Survive Overwhelming Loss & Loneliness in 5 Easy Steps was chosen by Michael Cunningham (The Hours) as one of the Top 10 Stories in The Tennessee Williams Fiction contest, and is included in the anthology The Best Gay Stories of 2017. David’s story Mata Hari was also selected in 2015 as one of the winners of The Tennessee Williams Fiction contest. David’s plays Slap & TickleAlbee Damned and Pluto Is Listening have been produced all across the U.S. including Chicago, Dallas, New York, Provincetown and St. Petersburg, and his play Mimi at The 44th Parallel was a Top 10 Finalist in The Austin Film Festival’s 2019 Playwriting Competition. His fiction has appeared in Saints + SinnersMosaic and Feminisms. His play Eleanor Rigby Is Waiting was made into a film which premiered at the 2019 Manhattan Film Festival, winning Best Independent Feature.

What Will We Take With Us Into Post-COVID Life?

In this powerful Op-ed. Storyteller, Art Curator, Artist & Creative Pois-On Contributor Sabrina Wirth reflects on our collective social and business future after the global pandemic emergency.

COVID19 Mask
Sabrina Wirth wearing one of the masks that she produced during quarantine.

When we started this quarantine journey together in mid-March, it was like we knew we were settling in for the long ride. We knew it would be temporary, and that it would be an inconvenience, but we approached it as a challenge. And so, we began to get creative and resourceful, thinking of ways to keep us busy, or create new content, because all of a sudden, social media became everyone’s outlet, and our home, the stage. Three months in and this temporary way of life has slowly transformed into the “new normal”. The big questions on everyone’s minds now, are: what will remain from this existence, what will return to how we remembered it, and what will change? 

By Sabrina Wirth

There is no question that pre-COVID life will remain in the past, and whatever we had been used to will have to continue in its adapted form- if it is to continue at all. Anyone who had been reluctant to jump on Instagram, or other social media, is now discovering the platform, and realizing that it is the window into a borderless, and virus-free world that does not have to follow social-distancing rules (Yet, at the same time, realizing that it is also a highly visible world, where the impact of what you publish can have far-reaching consequences). In the process of (re)discovering these alternate environments, many individuals and companies came to the awareness that much of what they deemed necessary, like in-person meetings, is in reality more efficient over the phone or on Zoom.

A ZOOM meeting in times of Corona Virus

Distance can no longer be considered an acceptable excuse for missing -or being late to- a meeting, because how can you be late to a phone call? It is safe to say that technology has significantly changed our pace of life over the past 30 years. Remember writing and receiving letters? Those shoeboxes once filled with letters from pen-pals are now filled with either bills, invitations, solicitations, and the occasional letters or postcards. In those letter-writing days, immediate gratification was not a thing. We lived our lives off-line and in the physically present moment. Indeed, everything was much more local, and calling someone in another country was a planned event. When texting became more common, it was exciting to be able to reach another person so instantaneously. Now, no one even gives it a second thought. Our pace of adjusting to the opportunities technology provides has been increasing gradually- so gradually that no one has really noticed.

Then, Covid-19 happened. It was as though someone said “now stop whatever you’re doing because if you want to continue, you have to figure out a different way.” They say “necessity is the mother of inventions”, and in a sense, we (by “we” I mean the majority) have had to invent a new way of life. That’s why #creativitywillsaveus keeps growing, because creatives are, by nature, constantly reinventing and reimagining. They are the ones who are leading the path into this new world, and the more people share on this platform, the more people are inspiring others to do the same. 

With all these advancements in technology and tools for working remotely, why has the workplace structure remained the same for so long? The traditional 9-5, 8-hour workweek has been around since the 20s when Henry Ford and the labor unions instituted a regulated work schedule. After WWII, when women and African Americans entered the workforce, office layouts were designed in the style of the factory floor rows, which had become common during the war years, and have since barely changed. It’s taken 3 months of quarantine and forced “work-from-home” for people to consider a different way- a more creative way.

During the quarantine, Sabrina got creative producing art, homemade masks, and developing innovative entrepreneurial ideas. She is also giving her voice to the podcast version of the Creative Pois-On #CreativityWillSaveUs Series. Check it here below!

And it’s taken this pandemic for people to finally embrace the changes that technology has made possible. If employees are able to productively work from home from whatever geographic location they are in, it confirms the notion that the traditional work model is outdated. As businesses begin to open up and people are given the option to return to their offices to work, there is a high likelihood that most people will want to maintain their flexibility, since it worked just fine during the quarantine. The one main difficulty, however, will be maintaining a sense of structure and balance between work and life, since the two have been blurred by existing within the same space. 

One industry that is discovering a “re-birth” of sorts, is the art business. Auction houses, galleries, museums… the kind of business that relies on in-person viewing. It’s a hand-shake business that capitalizes on the stories behind the object, the mystery of the artist’s process, the stories evoked in the tactility of the paint. The Mona Lisa is not the same on a screen as it is in the Louvre. A picture of a Warhol is not the same as the real thing. So what will this post-Covid transition look like?

Online Gallery
Is the online market the future of the Art Business?

For a while, auction houses were merely flirting with the idea of expanding the market online, and -despite the fact that being in the auction room itself is much more exciting- were cautiously making advancements with online bidding. It was never taken completely seriously though until a recent online auction at Sotheby’s brought in $36 million, more than double from the same period last year. Seeing these numbers come in from digital sales seems to be the validation the art world needed in order to forge ahead into more online ventures. To move ahead of the competition, without the advantages of real estate and location, the challenges will then be about storytelling and creating experiences that transcend between the virtual and the physical. In the meantime, however, museums and institutions that rely on membership and visitor fees will need to re-imagine the on-site experiences they provide in order to keep visitor numbers up. Will visits be limited to a certain number of people? What will happen with blockbuster exhibitions?

As the light at the end of this quarantine-tunnel becomes more visible, and our global attention is split between health and civil rights issues, I cannot help but feel a rush of emotions when I consider what our next phase of life will be. While eager to return to a sense of normalcy, I find myself hoping that some elements from this moment of isolation carry through into our future. Solidarity and community, for one.

#BlackLivesMatter
One of Sabrina’s homemade masks inspired by the principles of solidarity and community. Find more of these creations on Sabrina’s Instagram @_artwirth_

When we were all forced to individually “shelter-in-place”, we found ways to come together with tools like Zoom, FaceTime, and social media. In fact, many people may have found more community throughout these past several months than they had before. The shared efforts of making masks or designing and producing PPE face shields brought creative people from all industries together in a way they hadn’t previously experienced. The Black Lives Matter movement amplified the feeling of solidarity. Hopefully, this awareness of being able to impact change as a collective can transition into a more permanent state. Together, we can do more: we can be more creative, we can affect change, we can be stronger. Together, we are better. Let’s keep this as our main souvenir from Covid.

Sabrina Wirth
Sabrina Wirth

Sabrina Wirth is an artist, curator, writer, and storyteller. Her curiosity for people and different cultures has led her down various unusual, but fulfilling paths, such as exploring Iraqi Kurdistan, and working on a film about refugees in France. She believes in the power of creativity, and has learned that the best stories are the real-life, human ones.

For more info on Sabrina please visit: www.sabrinawirth.com

Surviving COVID-19 & Learning from Survivors of Genocide: The Concept of “Collective Humanity” Over “Collective Immunity”

French Human Rights Artist, Academic and UNESCO’s Artist for Peace Guila Clara Kessous, shares her theories on how to survive the COVID-19 by applying insights learned from assisting survivors of traumatic events such the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide.

by Guila-Clara Kessous
Edited by Kyra Johnson

Guila Clara Kessous

Why does it take a pandemic to bring humanity together—and realize our interconnectedness as a collective humanity in a global society? It is such a notion which, by an act of shared solidarity, it makes it possible to draw a human perspective of the collective rather than seeing it as a Darwinian means of containing the pandemic. As a UNESCO Artist for Peace, I have spent over two decades of my life serving survivors of globally devastating events, ranging from the Holocaust to the Rwandan Genocide. Throughout the duration of this global crisis, I have made the effort to share some of my theories on how to survive COVID-19 by applying insights learned from assisting the survivors of such genocides. 

Corona Virus
COVID-19 – People’s acts of solidarity towards the healthcare workers.

In times of remembrance of Holocaust victims, such as Yom HaShoah, I would like to remind us all that some of the most important philosophies of humanity have been derived during times of crisis. For example, Newton conceived his law of gravity during the Great Plague in the 1600s. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel became a Nobel Laureate for his many insights on the nature of mankind, offering perspectives such as,  “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Now, in the face of COVID-19, we find people taking a stance towards love, such as cheering at night in New York, Paris, and Italy for healthcare workers, and governors standing up for state justice. 

Reptilian Brain

With the upheaval imposed by the coronavirus, we find ourselves developing a perspective of survival functioning linked to the reptilian brain, whose instructions were defined by Walter Bradford Cannon as the “3 F’s”: Fight, Flee, Freeze. In the face of a threat, the brain dictates a spontaneous behavior that is almost impossible to anticipate, linked to a reaction of either aggressiveness (fight = combat), dodging (flee = escape), or seizure (freeze = stunned). The extreme frustration in the case of the coronavirus is that no matter how hard the brain orders us to fight, our threat is invisible. It can order us to flee, but we are forced to remain confined in our homes. I have explained it as,

“We are left with only one option: inhibitory stupor. This is the one we can read on the faces of officials when they speak to explain the situation in the media. It is the one that animates us all. We are all shocked by the speed and intensity of this epidemic that brings back to mind the ‘memento mori’ of the Ancient Romans: ‘Remember that you are mortal.’

Guila Clara Kessous

It is at this precise moment that we must call upon the leader within us—the one who “shows the way”, who creates enthusiasm,  who is inspiring—the one we want to follow. Overcoming sudden fear presupposes three specific lines of thought, two of which are linked to what I will call “personal leadership”. These have been consciously or unconsciously chosen by many genocide survivors (Shoah, Rwanda, and Bosnia), of whom I have had the chance to follow during customized coaching in post-traumatic dialogue sessions. Today, I advise any leader, but above all, the leader that everyone is for themselves, to be able to follow these three key guiding principles. (The third recommendation is directly related to the position of leader in an organization.) Efforts to improve ourselves as individuals will consequently guide us to a greater international unity–after all, there is no better time than now to take the first steps, as said by Anne Frank: 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank

1) PHYSICAL INSIGHT: FIND A NEW HOMEOSTASIS & CONNECTION TO YOUR BODY. Just fifteen minutes a day can save your life in terms of resetting the fluidity in your body. Like most post-traumatic stress syndromes, attacks on the joints can scale from the bottom to the top of the body. Moving the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, wrists, and the neck in small circles can be fundamental to finding your healthy and new homeostasis under quarantine. Originally discovered by the scientist

Claude Bernard, the term “homeostasis” comes from the Greek “to hold”, “equal”. It refers to the body’s ability to self-regulate despite imbalances of all types caused by external factors. It thus refers to the body’s ability to balance itself despite adversity. This homeostasis, this “rebalancing”, supposes an awareness of the body’s corporeal reality; and, as in the Russian martial art system, it suggests not to “stiffen” oneself in front of the blow under the influence of astonishment, but to “get out of balance” upon a threat by wasting as little energy as possible.

Since we can’t fight the virus, nor flee from home, let’s make this home—this body that is ours—a mindful, alert, and adaptable entity by being attentive to what it tells us.

Guila Clara Kessous

 “Healing is a process,” says Albert Nsengimana, author of How I Survived Being Killed by My Mother, and who lived in his flesh during the suffering of the Rwandan Genocide. Everyday physical efforts can help aid this vital healing process. Sporting activity, of course, is a very good illustration to which one can add a simple slow choreographed movement reflecting what the body needs. Even a simple balancing exercise at least once a day would be very highly recommended. Take a moment to stretch, spin, and dance!

2) MENTAL INSIGHT: BUILD A MINDSET OF TRAGIC OPTIMISM. People often speak of resilience.  “Resilience,” a notion so dear to ethologist Boris Cyrulnik, implies a willingness to rebuild after a trauma has been accepted and experienced.

Boris Cyrulnik
Ethologist Boris Cyrulnik

Unfortunately, with COVID-19, we are still undergoing the trauma. Victor Frankl’s notion of “tragic optimism” would be more appropriate to the situation. Otherwise, if we pursue “resilience” during this storm, it could evolve into “resignation.” As such, we need to fuel ourselves with this sense of tragic optimism. It is not a question of “happycracy” by forcing oneself to be happy in a superficial way. It is the “optimistic attitude to the tragedy of existence [that] allows. . . to turn suffering into a motive for fulfillment and accomplishment.” This “tragic optimism” tries to enable us to seek within ourselves the resources necessary to cope with a tragic existence that is beyond us. “Changing suffering into a motive for fulfillment” means daring to do what heroes and icons have done; it means maintaining positive psychology and keeping a watchful eye on the situation; neither being too fatalistically nor naively in denial of danger and keeping a belief that the best is yet to come.

3) ORGANIZATIONAL INSIGHT: BUILD A TRIBE OF COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE. What about the “collective body” in terms of teamwork? This line of thought comes from the experience I have gained throughout the duration of this pandemic, coaching managers by videoconference to teach them how to continue to create a link with employees when there is no longer any face-to-face presence. Leadership needs to be reinvented from an organizational point of view, especially if it pertains to an entity that is not used to virtual collaboration. When teams are required to come together through a new medium, we come to understand how valuable individual efforts are in benefitting the collective.

Malala Yousfzai
Malala Yousfzai

Malala Yousfzai, the internationally recognized advocate for education and peace, reminds us that “we realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” The objective of the virtual team must be to ensure that every individual is heard and to now allow for these circumstances to silence them.  There is an even greater need to find common goals in virtual teams and to reinvent storytelling. “Storytelling is a common myth to the group, a necessity for team cohesion,” as I have explained to colleagues. The appreciative inquiry method is an excellent example of re-creating collective intelligence in times of crisis and is fully applicable via videoconferencing. It involves identifying the successful factors that differentiate the collective in order to strengthen the bonds, particularly in rough times, and to show that leadership is not just a question of pyramidal authority management, but rather, a means of managing people in the service of common values, and who must face hazards such as the coronavirus together. 

Combined, these three insights create a notion of “collective humanity” to replace “collective immunity,” which in some ways is a much more Darwinian perspective of the world. For humanity consists of a body, a spirit, and a living-together, as the three dimensions of this article show. In addressing the progress of the Rwandan nation following its 1994 tragedy, Nsenigmana believes that “it’s better to live behind our past, our story. To move forward. To be together, to consolidate, to make a unit.” An applied mentality of collectivism that aims to unite humanity also points to Nobel Prize-winning existentialist, Albert Camus, in his reminder in an eponymous book narrating another famous epidemic:

“The only way to put people together is still to send them the plague.”

Albert Camus

Not even halfway through 2020, this year presents such a compelling and exciting time for all people, from the United States to Nigeria to China to France, to apply these concepts of collective humanity. Rosian Zerner, who not only survived the Holocaust but was reunited with her family in Lithuania, illustrated this resilience best in her poem reflecting on the nature of the mass genocide, “When Our World Stood Still”: “My hope is that the meaning of our inward pause will not be lost, that we will see this great transition as opening a different, better road ahead, that we return to or reinvent the meaning of what truly being human is in our wonderful creation.” By observing and reflecting on these insights from survivors of traumatic events, each person around the world is faced with the opportunity to be leaders of positivity in designing and building a post-COVID-19 world. 

ABOUT GUILA-CLARA KESSOUS

Guila Clara Kessous
Guila Clara Kessous

Guila Clara Kessous, PhD. is a research professor, a coach, and a UNESCO Artist for Peace. Recipient of a doctorate under Elie Wiesel’s direction, she is using theatrical techniques to help suffering populations (survivors of genocide and human rights violations) better express themselves and have a stronger impact on new generations. She is also certified in positive psychology by Harvard University Professor Tal Ben Shahar and accompanies people to achieve stronger resilience in times of crisis.  She deals with issues of positive leadership, crisis communication, and managerial posture using theatrical techniques and role-playing. Following the coaching of suffering populations, she accompanies personalities, executive committees, senior executives, and managers in crisis contexts in France and abroad. Today, she is working with healthcare personnel, ranging from executives to nurses, to provide coaching and counseling to those serving at the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.